LeBron James was front and center during a special and potentially revolutionary moment when he witnessed California governor Gavin Newsom SB206 into state law during an episode of HBO’s The Shop. The bill, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, will allow college athletes in California to profit from their names and likeness beginning in 2023.
“I don’t want to say this is checkmate, but this is a major problem for the NCAA,” Newsom said before signing the bill.
“It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation, and it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest finally of the athletes on par with the interests of the institutions. Now, we’re re-balancing that power arrangement.”
Of course, because LeBron was a part of the moment, he was asked about his thoughts on the bill when speaking to the media after wrapping up a practice session with the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron explained that the bill is personal to him because he would have been one of the athletes taken advantage of while universities profited if he would have gone to play college basketball. James would have made his school millions of dollars, while he would have received nothing.
“For sure I would have been one of those kids if I would have went off to Ohio State or if I went off to any one of these big-time colleges where pretty much that 23 jersey would have got sold all over the place without my name on the back. But everybody would’ve known the likeness,” LeBron said. “My body would have been on the NCAA basketball game, 2004. The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night if I was there. Coming from just me and my mom, we didn’t have anything. We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would’ve been able to capitalize on everything that I would’ve been there for that year or two or whatever.
“I understand what those kids are going through. I feel for those kids who’ve been going through it for so long. So, that’s why it was personal to me.”
It is hard to argue with that.
Of course, there will be plenty of legal challenges ahead, but it is a step in the right direction. Because California’s law will not go into effect until 2023, other states will have the opportunity to adopt similar legislation while the NCAA can also work to come up with a fair resolution of their own.